The SS-20 pedal-based preamp is an amazing little unit. It is a 2 channel preamp with separate 3 band tone controls for the clean and crunch channels. The crunch channel also has a boost for even more power. It is packed into a little chassis a bit bigger than a standard Boss pedal.
The clean channel does a lovely job of achieving that Chiming Fender amp sound, and sounds particularly beautiful with a guitar set to split coils. You can also push the gain and give your tone a little grit, much like a clean valve amp sounds when pushed hard.
Switching over to the crunch channel you will discover hot-rodded Marshall stack tones. High output pickups will even push the SS-20 enough for great metal tones.
Activating the boost switch will give you a fatter tone, and even more distortion. This is great for huge metal tones, and scorching leads.
And the beautiful thing about the SS-20 is that no matter how brutal a distortion tone you set, there is barely a whisper of unwanted noise when playing.
The tone controls on each channel are extremely versatile, and very user-friendly. I was able to dial in some great tones straight out of the box with minimal fuss. I was able to get beautiful, mid-strong rock and metal tones, and even great scooped extreme metal tones without even a hint of mud. Of course sludgy sounds were possible as well, but they are not my preference.
The crunch channel also has a 3 way switch is supposed to alter the frequency response, but I did not notice a big difference in sound. Maybe just slight amounts more of dirt, and slight changes to the frequency response.
The SS-20 has a 12AX7 tube built into it, and it certainly is not a gimmick. You can have the crunch channel maxed out, and roll back the volume knob on your guitar, and have your tone clean up considerably.
The SS-20 also achieves that distinct tube sound that occurs when you crank a valve amp. It really is quite amazing that it captures all the overtones and harmonics you find when playing a valve amp. The SS-20 responds to your playing dynamics, softer picking or finger picking will result in a cleaner tone on the crunch channel, and hitting the strings hard really smashes out heaps of of dirt.
From what I could understand, AMT Electronics talk about the SS-20 operating just like a valve amp, where the valve is creating all the tone. The solid state electronics apparently only affect it once the boost on the crunch channel is dialled past 7. After testing the SS-20 out considerably I'd be inclined to believe them.
It is brilliant that AMT Electronics have managed to capture authentic valve amp tone in such a small package, but there is more to the SS-20. It comes with a cabinet simulator as well, which work well for running straight to a PA or even a computer.
AMT Electronics have really managed to simulate a great tone that sounds so much like a real amp running in to a great speaker cabinet. Now you can go to a gig and plug straight into the house PA, or easily achieve that cranked up valve amp tone for recording to PC without annoying the neighbours.
I especially see this as a brilliant addition to home recording enthusiasts. It's a great little addition to your desktop, and having the ability to hook your pedal board to it is great.
Overall the SS-20 is capable of any style of music. It is one extremely versatile unit. It sounds phenomenal through a valve amp, and even a solid state amp doesn't hinder the valve tone this preamp generates.
I believe that if you have a solid state amp that has the power to for a band situation, and an effects loop built in the SS-20 will give you authentic tube tone on a budget.
For my audio samples I'm using an RG550 with a PAF Pro in the bridge, and the SS-20 running direct in to the line in of my PCs sound card. Cubase LE was used for the recordings. No touching up has been done.
SS-20 clean.mp3 SS-20 rock crunch.mp3 SS-20 heavy crunch.mp3 SS-20 scooped metal.mp3
AMT Electronics have certainly put a lot of effort into using quality materials with their products. The SS-20 has a nice basic metal chassis that feels nice and solid. It's not about to fall apart like a lot of plastic pedals feel.
The 12AX7 valve is protected with a vented metal cover, and it also has vents on the bottom of the pedal. AMT Electronics also saw fit to provide rubber feet so that the pedal is lifted a little off the ground to help with ventilation.
All of the dials on the SS-20 move smoothly and freely. I'd prefer a little more resistance in them, but that's my personal preference, nothing against the quality of the pots installed.
The only slight concern with the build of the pedal is the footswitches. At first they look like the same sort of units you find on MXR and Electro-Harmonix, etc but they aren't actually the same. The switches showing aren't actually the switch, they just push down and activate a micro-switch on the PCB. I'm sure that they should stand the test of time, but it would have been nicer to have the real deal switches.
|Customer Support ||
I haven't dealt with them personally, but they are provided gear to Jemsite for selected reviewers, so they are obviously ready to stand by their product if they are happy to provide gear like this to reviewers.
|Liked about it ||
Great tones are so easy to dial in straight out of the box.
* Fantastic clean and crunch channels sound just like a valve amp. AMT Electronics have really taken their time to develop a hybrid tube preamp that works like the real deal.
* Built in effects loop is brilliant. You can build your pedal board neatly, using reasonable length patch cables, and then just run one lead to the return of your amp's effects loop, PA, or even computer input.
|Didn't like ||
The pictures from AMT Electronics show the SS-20 as having knobs that look like the tips of the Soviet-era nuclear missile the preamp is named after. My unit came with regular black knobs. Not a big deal, but the idea of the warhead knobs is kind of cute in a strange way!
Jan 27, 2010
Last updated: January 29, 2010
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